27 Car Cleaning Ideas You’ve Never Thought Of


We spend a lot of time in our cars, which means we can track dirt and all kinds of debris into our vehicles. If you eat in your car, especially for multiple meals, it can be hard to keep your car clean. Expensive car detailing services can break the bank, and it takes time and dedication to properly maintain your car…and sometimes, we just don’t have the time. Luckily there some amazing hacks to help you get your car’s interior and exterior cleaned in no time, and most use things you already have around the house. So let’s get started!

1) Get crumbs and debris out of nooks and crannies

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It seems like even if we’re careful, crumbs just get everywhere in our cars, especially if we often have a snack or meal on the go. One of the worst parts about crumbs is how hard it can be to remove them from a stubborn spot. Take an old used toothbrush or a flat head screwdriver covered with a cloth, and use it to gently remove the crumbs. Be sure you vacuum the crumbs and debris up.

2) Get bugs off your car with a dryer sheet

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Certain areas of the country are popular times for bugs, and that means that the bugs have a higher likelihood of ending up on your car. Squashed bugs not only look unsightly, they can also have a damaging effect on your car’s paint, so you need to remove them as soon as you see them. Take your spray bottle and fill it with water then wet the area where the bugs are located. Next, take a dryer sheet and scrub the area gently until the bug is removed, then apply your wax removed if necessary. If you live in an area that’s known for “love bug season” or you do a lot of highway drives, keep a few dryer sheets folded up in your glove compartment to do quick removal anywhere.

3) Shine your headlights up in minutes

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Vehicle headlights that are clouded over and dingy can make it harder to see for other drivers to see your car on the road, and it doesn’t look that pretty either. You can shine up your headlight covers in minutes with pantyhose and a non-gel toothpaste. The toothpaste is a gentle abrasive, and will remove the build-up off the cover. Substitute a microfiber cloth if you don’t have any pantyhose. The best toothpaste to get is the kind with baking soda or whitening agents, however, if your car’s headlight covers have a special tint, you may need a professional to get the job done.

4) Get a great-smelling car

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Does your car’s odor leave something to be desired? Pets, food, and spills can lead to bad odors in your car, but it’s easy to restore your car to a great scent. Sprinkle your car seats with baking soda, and let it sit for several hours, then vacuum clean. The odor-busting properties of the baking soda will neutralize the odor, and leave you with fresh-smelling car seats. Next, keep up with odors with a natural air freshener. You can use a handful of scented wax cubes and place them in a small jar after poking holes in the lid. The heat inside the car will cause the cubes to melt, making it smell savory in your vehicle. Drop a bit of essential oil on a clothespin then attach to your air vent if you don’t have any wax cubes handy.

5) Clean up set-in cup holders with a sock

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Not all of us are lucky enough to have removable cup holders in our cars, which means it can be harder to clean those tight spots. However, there’s a way to get it done, and it may be easier than you think. You should clean up spills as soon as they occur, and the best way is to take an old sock you don’t use anymore, and soak it with your favorite cleaner, such as an all-purpose cleaner or even a window cleaner. Once the sock is soaked, put it in the cup holder and twist it around until the stains and spots are loosened. For stubborn spots, scrape them gently with a wooden skewer, breaking them apart. Use a vacuum to scrape up anything left behind. Curb your messes on future drives by using silicone baking cups in the holder.

6) Get your floor mats clean again

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Your car’s floor mats see a lot of wear and tear each time you drive or have passengers in your vehicle, and all that use can lead to some filthy mats. Don’t use a car detailer to clean the floor mats as part of a package deal, because you can do the same job at home. Fabric-covered mats may be washed in the washing machine. First apply a stain remover to help loosen any tough stains, then wash them on a gentle cycle with detergent; be sure you choose “gentle” to protect your washer and only do this with a front-loading washer.

7) Condition your car with hair products.

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If you want a shiny car that has that just-waxed look, just look in your bathroom for the solution. First, wash your car either by going to a car wash or by doing it with your favorite car shampoo. Now it’s time to add the shine with hair conditioner. Reader’s Digest advises you use conditioner that contains lanolin. Take ½ cup of hair conditioner and 2 cups of water, then put it on the vehicle, and rinse. The conditioner’s ingredients will do a great job of repelling water.

8) Clean your car’s vinyl and leather in a snap

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It seems like everything we eat has the ability to stick to the car, especially if you have vinyl or leather seats and detailing in your vehicle. Ice cream, spills, candy and chocolate can linger on vinyl or leather, but luckily, it’s easy to clean up. One method is to use a wet Magic Eraser and gently scrub the soiled or scrubbed spots. Just be sure you test it on a hidden spot to make sure it won’t harm your interior. The next method is to mix 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup white vinegar in a small container. You’ll rub this gently into your leather seats, then wipe clean with a rag. This will condition and disinfect your leather and keep it in great shape for years to come.

9) Remove stickers easily from your car

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If you’ve ever bought a used car or had one gifted to you, then you know how hard it can be remove any stickers on the car’s surface or glass. Grab a piece of newspaper and wet the area with warm water then rub until the sticker is soaked, then you can remove it. Another way to remove bumper stickers is to use a dab of WD-40 on a cloth, then rub the edges of the sticker, then scrape it gently with a store reward card or a credit card.

10) Get clean windows with your recycling

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If you want a streak-free quick trick for shiny windows, look no further than your recycling bin. Newspaper is an old tried and true trick for clean windows, and not only does it work on your home windows, it’s also great for your car windows — if you don’t have tinted windows that is. Take your favorite window cleaner and spray on the windows, then ball up your newspaper and wipe the windows clean. That’s it!

11) Give lint the brush-off

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Vehicle dashboards can accumulate dust, especially if your car sits in the sun often, or you don’t wipe it down regularly. The rest of the car can also attract dust, especially vinyl. If you need to wipe vinyl clean, just grab a coffee filter, which is a gentle but powerful duster. The coffee filters are made with lint-free features, so the dust will adhere to the filter, and you can use the filter throughout all of the parts of your car. Just remember to throw away the filter when you’re done, because you don’t want to let that debris and dust get into your coffee!

12) Make your tires and rims sparkle naturally

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Driving through muddy conditions makes for mud on your car, and one of the worst places that mud accumulates is the tires. Even everyday dirt, grass, debris and bugs can mar your rims or tires, and make them look unsightly. Clean your tires and rims naturally with a DIY green cleaner you can make at home. You’ll need ½ cup of baking soda, two cups of warm water and 1 tablespoon of Dawn (or another brand) dish soap. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl then dip your sponge or towel into the solution. Spray your hubcaps and tires with water to make it easier to lather, then gently scrub. Rinse starting from the top down, then dry and you’re done.

13) Clean your cup holders in minutes

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Can your car’s cup holders be removed? You can skip the time you would spend scrubbing them, and instead just throw them in the dishwasher. Set the appliance on the “rinse” setting, and let the dishwasher’s jets do the dirty work, then remove when they’re cleaned thoroughly — be sure you skip the dry cycle so they don’t melt, and instead, just wipe them dry and replace in the vehicle.

14) Keep trash at a minimum with a quick car-friendly trash can

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Even if your car is clean on the outside, having trash laying around inside makes it look pretty poor. Make sure that your trash is contained and in one spot so it’s easy to throw away by using a car-friendly trash can. Don’t go to the store to buy one, however, because you can make one easily at home. Use an empty, clean cereal container with a lid and put a small trash can or plastic bag inside, then toss trash in and empty when necessary. You can also make one that should fit in your cup holder with an empty Lysol wipes container, just make the hole in the lid bigger if needed.

15) Clean your car free of salt

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Road salt left on your car can ruin the paint and cause rust in the finish, so it’s never wise to let it linger on your car’s surface. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, then spray on the slat, and let the vinegar work its magic. Thanks to its neutralizing properties, the vinegar makes it easy to remove the salt with a white rag or cloth, and you’ve saved your car from paint damage in a snap.

16) Banish hair from your seats

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If your car seats are covered in animal hair, or even several pieces of human hair, it can be hard to find an easy way to remove it. The best way to use a window squeegee and a spray bottle filled with water. Start by spraying your seats and mats lightly, then scrape the hair gently with the squeegee to detach the hair from the upholstery. Follow this up by vacuuming your seats to get the hair gone completely.

17. Polish Your Interior With Olive Oil

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Have a jar of olive oil handy in the house? You can use it to polish your car’s interior instead of using store-bought car polish. Just take a dab of the oil and put it on a clean cloth, then go over the dashboard. Test the oil in a very small spot on the dashboard before going over the entire dashboard to see if the dashboard will react well.

18. Scrub Upholstered Seats with a DIY Cleaner

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Light-colored upholstery in your car looks great until stains start to build up, then it’s time to take it to the detailer. Not so fast, because you probably have all of the ingredients you need to make an easy DIY seat cleaner. First, vacuum your seats thoroughly to remove any and all crumbs so it will be easier to scrub. Next mix 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of club soda, ½ cup of Dawn dish liquid in a spray bottle. Shake up the bottle then spray your seats liberally. After spraying the seats, let them set for 5-15 minutes. Next grab a scrub brush and scrub in circles over the stains, then let it dry overnight. If you have one available, use a shop vac or steam cleaner to go over the area with just water.

19. Keep your car clean on the go with DIY car interior wipes

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Why buy expensive car cleaning wipes at the store? You can make your own and keep them in a Mason jar in the car for cleaning on the go. Make the wipes with 3 tablespoons of almond oil, ¾ cup distilled water, ½ cup vinegar and a roll of paper towels. Combine all of the liquid together in a glass jar, then shake it well. Next cut your paper towels in half, removing the roll in the middle. Place the roll of paper towels in the mixture then shake again to coat the paper towels. There you have a set of DIY car cleaning wipes that will clean well and smell great.

20. Keep your food from spilling while on car trips

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On a road trip and need to stop for a bite? Keep trash and food spills to a minimum by using a dollar store shower organizer. Just put your burgers, fries, etc, in the caddy. When you’re not using the caddies for fast food, just keep them stacked in the trunk, or use them for snacks in the car. This is a great tip if you have grandkids in your car too, because they’ll have their own personal tray when eating.

21) Clean your air vents quickly

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Do you like dusty air vents in your car? No one does, and when the air is on, all of those dust particles can get in your face and eyes. Just head to the hobby store or dollar store and grab a small foam paintbrush, the kind you would use for painting trim. Hold a vacuum hose up to your vents, then brush the dust away toward the vacuum, and suck it up. Enjoy your dust-free vents.

22. Remove embedded gunk from the exterior paint with a clay bar

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Don’t pay for the car detailing service to remove the build-up on your car’s paint. Instead, The Family Handyman suggests you buy a clay bar kit. The kits will come with pieces of synthetic clay and a lubricating spray, everything you need to use the clay on your car. Just follow the clay’s instructions, and pluck the debris out with the clay bar.

23. Remove melted wax from car seats with an iron

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Candles, crayons or other wax products melt in the car? No worries, because you only need an iron to remove the dried-on gunk. Just take a piece of paper and place it over the stain, then iron the paper. The heat from the iron will break up the hard wax and then it will go on the paper, letting you lift it up instantly. Use the same tip in the house for furniture or even clothes too.

24. Sort cords and other items with an ice pop mold in your console

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Do you stash your cord, charger, and other items in the console of your car? It’s no fun sifting through that mess of tangled items, and you can use a dollar store item to make it easier to keep them all organized. Grab an ice popsicle mold set and set it inside the console without the sticks. You can now store change, charging cords, lip balm, and other small items there.

25. Remove tar from your car with mayo or peanut butter

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If your car picked up a bit of tar while you were out driving, you know how hard it can be to remove it scrubbing with soap and water. You can use mayonnaise or peanut butter to remove the tar with ease — just don’t mix them together! Pick your available ingredient, and apply a small amount on the tar, then let it sit for 10 minutes. It should wipe off easily with a cloth after that.

26. Keep the car interior clean with baby wipes

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It’s time to head to the dollar store again, this time for a pack of baby wipes. The baby wipes are similar to the DIY or store-bought wipes, and are gentle on most car interiors. You can use a baby wipe to scrub down the steering wheel, dashboard and other surfaces. Just test them in a small spot to make sure that it won’t damage the interior. Baby wipes can be kept in the glove compartment and are perfect to wipe away makeup marks and other grime. If they’re gentle enough for babies, they’re gentle enough for your car.

27) Use a gummy gel cleaner

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This gummy cleaner picks up dust and dirt in hard to reach places such as car vents, dashes, etc. Some of these are equipped with disinfectant and don’t leave a sticky residue. The trick to these cleaners is that you’ll want to keep your hands dry while using them, to maintain ultimate stickiness and effectiveness. While store-bought “cleaning slimes” are available, you can make your own at home and save money. Start with a ½ cup of liquid starch, a 4 oz bottle of Elmer’s glue, and a ¼ cup of water to create the slime.  You’ll soon have a pliable slime that can get in the nooks, crannies and crevices of your interior.